A birth is typically a joyous time, but far too many women are suffering fatal illness and complications in the days after their baby is born. In fact, over half of maternal fatalities happen after a woman gives birth.
We are learning that new mothers’ health may be in serious danger during the days and weeks after childbirth. These women may suffer issues such as pain, infection, high blood pressure, heart problems, blood clots, stroke, and mood disorders including anxiety and postpartum depression.
The numbers are disturbing
Over 700 U.S. women die annually due to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes. In addition, more than 50,000 new mothers face life-threatening complications from pregnancy and childbirth, making the U.S. among the worst countries for maternal healthcare in the industrialized world.
Another disturbing statistic is how many women must return to work soon after giving birth. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 23 percent of mothers who work outside the home return to work within 10 days of having a baby. And another 22 percent go back to work within 40 days. Needing to take time off work makes it difficult for women to get the follow-up care they need.
What can be done?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently issued an opinion on how to address these problems. They recommend that postpartum care for mothers and babies should be more than one visit to the doctor. Currently, there is very little medical support for new mothers. Four to six weeks after the birth is when most women see their doctor. For many women, this is too long to go without postpartum care. And many insurance plans only cover this single visit, making it harder for some women to return for follow-up care.
ACOG’s recommendations include a doctor’s visit for the mother at three days postpartum if they had complications such as high blood pressure. They recommend a visit at three weeks if the woman had a pregnancy and delivery without complications. Each woman is unique and some may need these visits to go on until the 12th week postpartum. ACOG proposes that insurance plans cover all of these visits.
While these are good steps, getting insurance to cover extra doctor’s visits will likely be difficult. There’s no telling yet when or if the recommendations will be implemented.